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by Marco M. Pardi

Untold Stories of Tonio

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A cool Autumn wind blew leaves among the sparsely occupied tables at the outdoor cafe. Two blocks from the university, it was across the street from the tavern most favored by students, and the pretenders always found hanging on. Though he rejected picking favorites, Tonio liked this time of year best. Gaia was slowly closing her robes, beckoning her family to come within. It was also hunting season, when buffoons in their costumes hoped their guns would bolster their fading masculinity. Tonio hated hunting; but for him hunting season was year round. Knowing the character of his prey, he waited to see him arrive and mingle among the gathering evening crowd across the street.

His server, a fairly attractive girl who looked more like she belonged at the tavern, had apparently assumed, from the labeled notebook atop his table, that he was open to conversation. She introduced herself as the daughter of the proprietor and that she had a street view apartment above the cafe. All in textbook English. Red flag. But then, in a university town, maybe not.

Alone for the moment, he entertained his discomfort with certain aspects of his specialty: Problem solver? Fixer? Tourist? As the server attended another table he thought about the times he had used people for purposes they never knew and probably would not have agreed to. Had any of them come to grief? Well, yes, but he told himself it was not his intention. In the cards, so to speak.

But what about those people he didn’t select, but came anyway? Those people who seemed to appear and disappear, seemingly without consequence but later proving to have been pivotal to the unfolding of what appeared to be a plan far too complex for his own making. Maybe he was guilty of ego-centrism, seeing things only from his perspective and not realizing he had played a part, the importance of which he would never know, in the unfolding of their plan. How many times had he himself been a tiny wheel within a wheel within a wheel inside the kinetic unfolding of someone else’s life? And how many people were even aware there was a plan, if there was one? Are we all just sub atomic particles/waves blinking in and out of existence in a cosmic chaos? Is it possible to throw a cork into a bubbling creek and mathematically predict and chart every bob and sink and twist? For Tonio the word “random” was just a cheap cop-out, a way of pedantically saying, “I dunno”. The school of strict Determinism would say, Yes, we can predict and chart the cork, given enough information. This, of course, is anathema to at least two camps: The religious folks are determined (pun intended) to cast us as completely free in our choices, thus leaving us open to the charge of sin and guilt, for which we can pay the church to absolve us; and, the people who see Humankind as separate from and superior to all the rest of Nature and who seek to uphold free will as a hallmark of evolution, proof we have risen above savage beasts and dumb animals ruled by instinct alone. Many geneticists and ethologists would hasten to disagree with that view of non-humans. And many of the religious folks seem to have forgotten or ignored their own literature. For example, Ecclesiastes: To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. Of course, one question the religious folks never answer is how one reconciles a belief in an omniscient god, knowing everything past, present and future, with a creature such as Man having Free Will.

But Tonio, while aware of subtle details in his surroundings, was judicious about his intake and analysis of information. His occupation channeled him into a pattern of thinking in ultimates; he would either survive or he wouldn’t, his target would either survive or not. Yes, each operation had to be calculated precisely and that principled habit carried over into the mundane passage of daily life. That principle also drove his insistence on not knowing much about the reason(s) he was dispatched to resolve certain problems. He did not want to slip into the morass of second guessing, devising alternatives which might cause him to hesitate. Nor did he want to allow the assignment to become personal, arousing feelings he would have to deal with. Either could be fatal, quickly or in the long run.

Tonio felt he had arrived at that principle in his youth. Very often engaged in fights with boys older and larger than himself he learned awareness of every part of his body, its position, its potential for action in any circumstance. This served him well when, in military unarmed combat training he allowed a much larger mixed martial arts instructor to seize him in a neck grip from behind. In under a minute he gripped the man’s arm, tucked his own legs, threw the instructor over him, and applied a “sleeper hold” to the man’s carotid and jugular, rendering him unconscious. A second instructor, in a panic, attacked him. Helping the second man find rest took an entire minute. The supervisor of that section asked him to stay at the facility as an instructor, but he respectfully declined, citing a desire to go where the real action was. The same scene played out in firearms training as Tonio registered “Above Expert” with every foreign and domestic one-man firearm and turned down an instructor position. Tonio was an angry young man, but did not fully realize it.

Having been to the funerals of several young people Tonio had often heard the trite saying, Taken before his time. He thought that utterly illogical. To him it was a presumption of a preordained time frame, a frame others could read and judge. And who made this frame? He was also disgusted by terminally ill people who bankrupted their families getting prolonged treatments and medicines so they could hang on a few more days or weeks. The consequences of obtaining a short and probably miserable reprieve for oneself could impose serious, even crippling determinants on the family perhaps for more than just the current generation. Housing, nutrition, education curtailed or lost so Pop could suck oxygen and piss himself a while longer.

His mind drifted to motives as he returned his attention to business. Why would someone successfully employed in an agency dedicated to the preservation of peace go rogue and provide catastrophic information and resources to a manifestly hostile power? The acronym inside the agency for such motivation was MICE: Money, Ideology, Compromise, Ego. As Tonio saw it, each of those four concepts was a focal point behind which lay a forest of determinants. Well, the CI (Counter-Intelligence) Division would figure that out.

As the evening darkened and the crowd across the street swelled Tonio spotted his prey, accompanied by a single escort, heading into the tavern. He was glad to see the man was wearing a waist length cardigan. Tonio would circulate among the jostling crowd, a thick fountain pen holding a pneumatic charge and a proven pellet of a lethal substance for which there was no antidote was among the other pens in Tonio’s shirt pocket protector. Milling around the bar, Tonio would bump against the target’s back, zap him high on his buttocks, and melt into the crowd. The pen would go down the first sewer Tonio came to. Death would be certain within 48 hours, possibly 24. By that time Tonio would be somewhere in Scandinavia.

He casually finished his meal and paid his check, along with an extra large tip. As he rose to leave he turned to the server, who was looking pensively at him. “Perhaps I’ll see you later, or certainly tomorrow”, he said. She smiled rather doubtfully and Tonio had a very odd feeling. It felt like sympathy for the girl who, night after night, could only stand, invisibly, as her peers frolicked in clear view. Must have been something in the food, he told himself and turned to leave.

Dust to Dust

Dust to Dust

by Marco M. Pardi

“……all my dreams pass before my eyes, a curiosity, dust in the wind, all they are is dust in the wind…..” penned byKerry Livgren, American band Kansas.

What’s it all about, Alfie? Is it just for the moment we live….?” sung byDionne Warwick, the film, Alfie.

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. All previous posts are open for comment. Feel free to forward this site to anyone you wish.

Today we see the initial pictures taken by the James Webb Space Telescope. Of course, like so many around the world I am enthralled. Astronomers are now able to peer back, albeit through tiny windows opening onto the universe, 13.7 billion years ago. Perhaps the ancient Greeks were right, in a way. They commonly thought the sky was a perforated dome through which, at night, light shone through in points from an outside dimension. Perhaps that dome is the limit of our technology and as we penetrate it with our James Webb telescope and other vehicles we peek into the dimension we call Time. The “Big Bang” is thought to have occurred 13.8 billion years ago.

The Cosmos is a violent place. Stars and planets are born and perish in spectacular explosions and collisions, spawning massive dust clouds. The photographic images show thousands of swirling points of light, each a galaxy like our own and only a few of the trillions of such galaxies out there. Most of us have seen computerized images of our Milky Way galaxy. Earth is an almost imperceptible dot on the outer fringe. Yet, everything on this planet is stardust in one form or another. Oh, we recombine things and call them man-made. Cute. Kids in the sandbox.

I thought back to my first experiences with star gazing, years before I lay on the Sahara Desert watching the early Soviet and American satellites sweeping overhead. I remembered the deep in the core excitement I felt with my first exposure to literature, in primary school, telling of intelligent life on other planets. I avidly read all I could, yearning to go to such places, to live there. Not well connected to human life, I assumed anywhere was better and would feel like my true home.

But then, as I expanded my reading to include the blooming of popular science literature dealing with the “reality” of such ambitions I discovered that many of the stars seen by our telescopes of the day were many light-years away. As understanding dawned, I realized some of what I was seeing might not even still exist, at least not in the form it was then appearing to me. Which meant that any intelligent life on planets orbiting those stars would likely never know of me, nor I of it. That realization brought me back to Earth.

Looked at from two perspectives, longitudinal and latitudinal, the depth and breadth of human life is as staggering as the sparkling panorama of the desert night sky with stars too numerous to count circled by untold numbers of planets. But only those stars a young man could see. A historian could greatly extend my knowledge of the longitudinal human cosmos, but only for those societies who recorded history. And only for those very few people who, like the galaxies in the Webb pictures, made it into the history books. An anthropologist could open the human cosmos indefinitely in both dimensions, longitudinal and latitudinal. But why bother?

I began getting answers in the 1960’s. While still in the military I enrolled in a spread of college courses and found myself most drawn to Anthropology. Contrary to the common trope at the time, that students who majored in Anthropology were alienated and looking for a home, I was alienated and not looking for a home. I had already concluded I would never find one. Through reading a variety of the finest science fiction I had come to realize that humanoid societies, no matter the planet, most likely had internal issues similar to what I already knew in ours. And, more to the point, were I to be in some alien planet society I could not “know” it as alien and survive. I would be living just as I am now, a “natural” member of the society with no consciousness of anything different. So, where’s the gain?

Another common trope was that students of Anthropology were “do-gooders” who, out of their love for all Mankind, wanted to travel the world spreading love and joy. I won’t grace that with much comment, except to say, Heard of the Peace Corps? Oh, for a few years I did study parasitic diseases. I don’t recall ever loving any.

Returning to the Cosmos as metaphor for human society, the longitudinal view brings us history books filled with the thousands of persons who have given rise to our modern world. But history is a tiny part of our past. Several of the early forms of prehistoric Man had brains the same size and general morphology as ours. There is no justification for the view of “caveman as unthinking brute”. And, while the numbers were low in harsher environments, evidence supports positions such as that of Jared Diamond who posits populations in the millions in Pre-Columbian North and South America.

A central lesson permeating through history is that human populations have a signature tendency to wipe each other out, through armed conflict, transfer of disease, or absorption of one by the other. A cosmic and ongoing conflict of the flesh. Diamond and others claim that European introduced smallpox and other diseases killed millions of the people living in the Americas on their arrival. Interestingly, many of these native cultures practiced “sky burial”; exposure of the corpse on an elevated platform for carrion eating birds to consume. The bones were left to become dust.

Of course, reasonably educated readers are well familiar with the history of wars, the slaughter of whole populations, the starvation of others through destruction of food resources or access to food and water, diseases spread by mobile armies, and the many examples of genocide. In that context I found the following excerpt illustrative:

Between 1936 and 1938 the Soviet Union arrested 1,548,366 people. They were accused of disloyalty, espionage, sabotage, or counterrevolution. Most were innocent. But 681,692 were executed. Of those who were not killed, most were sent to severe labor camps, known as the “gulags”. Stalin reportedly said, while signing execution lists, “Who is going to remember this riff-raff in ten, twenty years? No one.” (biography of AGENT SONYA. Ben Macintyre).

In my library I have the names of dozens of those 681,692 people. One day even their names will be dust. By the way, Stalin was not a name. It was a title, “Man of Steel”. His name was, Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili. Similarly, Josip Broz – “Tito”, dictator of what was then called Yugoslavia, was called Tito because of his habit of saying, “Do it!” for any suggestion or idea he liked. In Serbo-Croatian Tito means “do it”. The world knows him as Tito. Another amusing figure was “U. Thant”, a Burmese who rose to become Secretary General of the United Nations. Amusing because in Burma people commonly use one name and in Burmese U is an honorific, such as English speakers would use Mister. So, introducing Mr. U. Thant is introducing Mr. Mr. Thant. Ah, well. Who cares, right?

Life can easily begin to look pointless. And, before I became a father and grandfather that view was hard to defeat. But look, what if my descendants choose to not have descendants? What if I can see the end of the line right now? Looking at the present and developing situations in and on the planet right now, would you encourage your descendants to “go forth and multiply”? Seriously, would you?

Almost certainly someone will raise the concept of Posterity. Assuming a planet killer asteroid is not speeding our way just now, Posterity does deserve some thought. How deeply should we care about people we will never see, or even know about? My greatest concerns are for the innocent victims of humankind’s stupidity: the non-human life on this planet. In doing what I can for them I likely will contribute to conditions which also benefit humans. But I continue to support, financially and otherwise, a couple of dozen or more non-human animal shelters, sanctuaries, rescue groups, and environmental organizations, even if humans derive some benefit.

I’ve had this website for several years, and have posted about 300 entries of my own and a few from willing contributors. At times it has been read in countries around the world. I know that because the software tells me what country a reader is in. Only that. Nothing more. The number of reads far exceeds the number of people who are kind enough to comment. Disappointing. But hey, welcome to life in the big city. What will happen to all this material once I go behind Door Number Four? I don’t know.

Over many years and for various reasons I was quite active transmitting over various kinds of radios. As a kid I learned that radio transmissions “go on forever”. So, somewhere in that cacophonous universe someone may be listening and trying to figure out how a lunatic got hold of a microphone. But for here and now this is my soapbox.



by Marco M. Pardi

God made me an alcoholic to serve as an example to my children of what not to do.” Anon. (Spoken at a closed A.A. meeting in the presence of this author who was doing Death & Dying research among substance abusers.)

One cannot be deeply responsive to the world without being saddened very often.” Erich Fromm, world renowned Psychoanalyst.

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. All previous posts are open for comment. Readers are encouraged to forward this site as they wish.

Though it may not seem so at times, I listen to people. Always have. Thus, as a young man working in a funeral home I heard many things expressed among family and friends of the deceased, especially during pre-burial viewings. In the case of infants and children, “Taken before his time”, “There were so many plans”. For adults, “She lived a full life”, “It was his time.” For accident victims, “So that’s how God decided to bring him home.”

The author Crane Brinton said, “Man is unique in nature and among animals in being able to conceive a future.” My experience with non-human animals casts great doubt upon that. But then, I have no concrete way to prove that. And it is proof I will try to address here.

Spending my careers in fields concerned with life or death situations I “naturally” gravitated into a reliance on logic, a fundamental character trait I cannot remember ever not having. In an earlier post I outlined my reason for dismissing the term irrational as it is commonly used. To me, irrational is unintelligible; glossolalia, “speaking in tongues”, is an example. Though those engaged in debate may hurl the accusation “irrational” at an opponent it has no place in a discussion of views. Instead, I contrast non-rational and rational, without judging the inherent value of either. Rational speech is objectively evidence based. An outside examiner, much removed, is able to assess the factual truth of the statement. Non-rational speech is belief based. The objective truth of the statement is neither provable nor disprovable even by the speaker.

We can say that the discovery of pregnancy very often sparks imagined visualizations of the future, a state which, by definition, does not exist. We can agree that the “reveal” of the sex status of the fetus often channels the visualizations into expectations based upon presumed gender roles. And, we can understand that later rejection of the roles by the born and developing child often brings unpleasant, sometimes severe, consequences upon the child. We would be fair in concluding those consequences emanate from a non-rational view of who the child really is; they emanate from belief, not from demonstrable fact, a point which would be argued by the child as it develops.

Apparently the once United States are currently expressing a kaleidoscopic variety of non-rational conclusions regarding when life begins. Some States are proclaiming that human life is established at conception – the joining of a male’s sperm cell and a female’s egg cell, a position held by some denominations of Christianity. I’m waiting to see the first test case, a newly pregnant woman stopped for driving in the car pool lane. But Your Honor, there were two persons in the car. Since human cloning is a possibility, will we be prosecuting cancer surgeons for mass murder when they take healthy cells in order to obtain clean margins around a tumor? In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a common procedure by which couples unable to conceive are able to do so with the assistance of technology. But the process almost always results in multiple fertilizations, from which the couple selects one or two embryos for implantation. The rest of the fertilized eggs are discarded. Will that now be prosecuted as multiple murder?

Other States are side-stepping the issue, permitting termination of the pregnancy up to the threshold of viability outside the womb, medically considered 23 – 24 weeks. And, some States are struggling to set some point in between conception and twenty two weeks. Notably, there is sparse discussion of what constitutes Fully Human. Are people visualizing a future development, an as yet non-existent state and retro-projecting it to the present? Are they seeing an as yet non-existent Little Leager in a zygote? Are they looking at electrical impulses in a small tissue mass and seeing rational thought?

If a Spontaneous Abortion, the medical term for “miscarriage” occurs it can certainly be occasion for sadness. But is it deserving of “taken before its time” being intoned? Some States have expressed determination to investigate spontaneous abortions to determine whether the woman induced the event in some way. Since many of these occur while the woman is using the toilet, will she be prosecuted for destroying evidence if she flushes? Spontaneous abortion is often not as simple as many people imagine. It is often incomplete, requiring immediate medical care to prevent the woman from going into septic shock and dying. Yet, if a physician is facing loss of license, a large fine, and ten years in prison, will he or she step forward to provide it?

Several States are following Texas’ lead in criminalizing even the attempt to seek an abortion, developing surveillance of internet searches, out of State travel arrangements, intrusion into medical records, and empowering vigilantes to spy on and report neighbors, friends, and family members who may try for such medical care and doctors who provide it. A “bounty” is promised in the amount of $10,000 minimum available through lawsuits the vigilantes are encouraged to file. Apple and Google are currently under scrutiny for facilitating the identification and tracking of anyone seeking information and/or services connected with abortion. This is quite familiar to me. The excerpt below is from a research site covering the rise of Fascism in Italy:

The Organizzazione per la Vigilanza e la Repressione dell’Antifascismo (OVRA; Italian for “Organization for Vigilance and Repression of Anti-Fascism”) was the secret police of the Kingdom of Italy, founded in 1927 under the regime of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. The OVRA was the Italian precursor of the German Gestapo. Mussolini’s secret police were assigned to stop any anti-Fascist activity or sentiment. Approximately 5,000 OVRA agents infiltrated most aspects of domestic life in Italy. The OVRA was headed by Arturo Bocchini.”

While my father, an Italian military Colonel and a clandestine paymaster of the Resistance, was in Prague under temporary arrest by the Gestapo my English grandmother, American-Italian mother, my older brother, and I were spirited away in the pre-dawn hours to a safe house provided by the Vatican. My grandmother, who spoke only English, had been visiting her daughter, raised and educated in Italy, Switzerland and France, and my grandmother was trapped with us in Italy when war was declared against the Allies. Fearful that some neighbor would succumb to the OVRA offers of money and extra ration cards, or to threats of imprisonment for not turning in foreigners, we moved into small rooms where we hid for ten months. During those months we nearly starved and I entered Death’s anteroom twice through inadequate treatment for pertussis and then an unknown virus. Unable to seek medical help, we could only rely on the questionable medicine smuggled to us by two Catholic priests. The OVRA did raid and search our home. Had we been discovered my family would have been imprisoned. I, with a Fascist birth certificate and Fascist passport – which I still have, would probably have been placed somewhere. Or, we would just be more bones in a field. Yes, tell me again how Fascism is no big deal, how it could even be good for the United States.

But let’s return to the quote beneath the title about being made an alcoholic as an example of what not to do. Clearly non-rational; we cannot say it is true nor can we say it is false. This is typical too of statements such as A fertilized egg has a soul and is therefore entitled to the same personhood as the woman carrying it. Non-rational. Can’t say it’s right, can’t say it’s wrong. But let’s play along. An entire industry sprang up on the claims of discovering your purpose in life. All of the reams of that literature are non-rational. What’s to stop me from saying A spontaneous abortion occurs because a soul: 1. Is providing a lesson from which the parents should discover sorrow and their ability to work through it; 2. The soul realized it had picked the wrong host and bailed out; or, 3. The soul was meant to teach the woman to not use drugs, including alcohol.

And what’s to stop me from saying an unwanted pregnancy, requiring an induced abortion, Is a message from God to be more careful, get yourself on contraception, to not take candy from strangers, etc. Did that make you mad? It would make me mad.

And what about rape and/or incest? Some States do not allow abortion in either case. Adding insult to injury, some of these same States require the mother to allow child visitation with her rapist, incestuous or otherwise.

But there is a new remedy devised by this same “supreme court”. They have just now decided that the Environmental Protection Agency cannot continue overseeing and regulating toxic emissions from coal and other fossil fueled power plants. Many of these plants are situated precisely in air current corridors which most seriously impact low income minority communities – the same communities which dominate abortion demand. For decades the infant and childhood morbidity and mortality from asthma and other respiratory conditions in these communities has been disproportionately high, indeed stunning. Yet, the “court” decided against the EPA, long a target of the “Republican” party, and is allowing toxic emissions to solve the unwanted pregnancy problems. The GOP mantra for hazardous industries is “self regulation”. After all, unregulated capitalism is the economic bedrock of Fascism. Is it rational, non-rational, or irrational that the Republican (read: Fascist) Party wants to outlaw abortion and even contraception yet is fine with poisoning every living being on the planet? Over 75 years ago Fascists attempted to harm my family. Now they are attempting again. And that’s not a stretch of the imagination.

But I think you get the point. Are we, as a modern, civilized society, to allow ourselves to be governed by laws formed in the non-rational fantasies of someone’s imagination? Are we to be governed by those who look at us and see only dollar signs, or cannon fodder?

Georgia On My Womb

Georgia On My Womb

by Tamila Kianfard

Tamila Kianfard is an Outstanding Scholar who has been actively engaged with United Nations committees and non-governmental organizations. She has previously contributed to this site. She authored and published this piece in June of 2019.

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. All previous posts are open for comment.

The politics of Georgia have become much like the weather of Georgia— unpredictable and absurd. Let’s not even get started on the other Southern states. Alabama, Mississippi—I’m talking about you.

If Georgia’s “heartbeat” bill (HB 481 2019-2020) wasn’t so terrifying and sinister in nature—it would actually be comical. Especially when one considers who is making all the final decisions.

Picture this: A hastily casual meeting of medieval minds, tired and slouching at an outdated round table, matching the outdated conversation. With horrible lighting overhead, coffee, tea, and stale biscuits; they make swift and steady decisions about issues that don’t—and never will—pertain to them. Yes, imagine that for a second, and let it sink in, deep. At best, that’s how these decisions are made.

I for one, hope to one day adopt (either a child or a pet, I haven’t decided), if just for the fear of possible genetic repercussions (I was a terror child and if my mother’s prayers work, my children will be worse). Either way, the choice is mine, and it should always be mine. It’s our divine right as women— for the price we pay as mothers, and the sacrifices our bodies make—that no male counterpart will ever understand.

However, Georgia’s “heartbeat” bill is in violation of the US Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment—the right to privacy—the right our countrymen, and women, died for us to have. To infringe on this right, is to infringe on their memories. There is no honor in that.

Let’s just cut right to the chase, shall we?


Abortion is not a governmental claim; it should not be a religious claim; and above all—it will never be a man’s claim.

It is a womb-an’s personal claim (see what I did there?).

As a woman, even I find myself fretting over how to appropriately tip-toe around the issue. Which is why I find it almost satirical, and highly offensive, when anyone, especially male counterparts, feel so entitled to their invalid opinions about a choice that isn’t theirs to make in the first place.

Nevertheless, there are some holes in the round table debates regarding HB 481 2019-2020, that I would solely like to note:

1. Oh the irony!          

Isn’t it ironic? The ones who want to cut, lessen, take away the amount of federal funding, feeding into the federal aid system (Medicaid, food stamps, etc.) are the same ones who have made a decision that will now be, open-endedly, populating it? 

Let’s just try to ignore the initial, nonsensical reasoning behind the name of the bill— because, frankly, that’s another issue. (More importantly, I’m not medically-certified to expand on this… For this same reason, the GOP shouldn’t either.)

I’m a proud Georgia girl, born and bred, but this is not our finest hour. Frankly, and disturbingly, I find the GOP’s vote on HB 481 to be more, odd, than anything else. As if the GOP is acting in spite of itself, and all of Georgia too.

The redtape on Republican tax dollars would make one think the GOP would be rooting for abortions, if it meant reducing federal aid by default. The obvious lag in logic is truly alarming.

For those who missed it: More people in unstable situations means increased federal aid dependency. (Also, friendly reminder for those who think abortions are a government handout; abortions are not free in most states—and Georgia is no exception. Medicaid does not cover abortions in Georgia. Most people pay out-of-pocket, anywhere between $400-$1,000, give or take.)

Not to add insult to injury, but as luck would have it, the Peach State is also home to an ever-growing movie industry. Georgia provides space for Hollywood films and popular tv shows, and with them comes lots of staunch pro-choice Hollywood actors (they don’t call it the “liberal arts for nothing). So, imagine our surprise, as Georgians, in our beloved Peach State, when the GOP not only went ahead and voted “Yes” for the “heartbeat” bill, but did so knowing it would mean expelling the Blues, and the greens. The GOP didn’t stop at losing millions of dollars in all the above mentioned, but now we will enter loss in the billions, as productions have already begun pulling out of Georgia. Nice one, guys.

2. Oh, the hypocrisy!

I have always found it rather peculiar that, somehow, religion is always at the top of the list for considerations against abortion. This begs the question: If abortion is considered a sin—isn’t pre-marital sex, a sin too? But that didn’t stop anyone from doing it. So why didn’t the rules apply there, religiously?

The real hypocrisy is that we can preach about an unborn fetus, but overlook the millions of children in the world without homes. You want to do your due diligence to the world? Let’s talk about the children who are already here.

I remember the first time I spoke on a panel discussing the Status of Women. I was nervous; more worried about what would come up, and who I was going to offend. Then, lo and behold! The question I fervently try to avoid, came up, and was addressed to me. The inquirers: Three strong, young, brave, Catholic girls from Mexico City. The question: “Do you believe in abortion?”

While the girls were sweet, and their courage made me proud—I was doomed. I loathed this topic. I completely froze, but I wasn’t about to lie either. Remarkably composed, I finally retorted: “I believe in adoption.”

The girls beamed with delight, and I thanked the Lord I came out of that alive, and with my dignity still fully intact.

So, I figure, if these [fiercely] devout Catholic girls from Mexico City could accept my response as a valid clause (diverting compromise?), then so can anyone else. Furthermore, if one is truly that worried about an unborn child, perhaps one should be that worried, and doing more, about the children [already] here. With the same enthusiasm and zest for life.

[On a side note: Kudos to the parents who choose to love their babies from the heart—regardless of the womb. Ya’ll are the real MVPs.]


3. Oh, the idiocracy!

Let’s just call a spade, a spade. Some people just shouldn’t be parents. Correction: A lot, a lot of people shouldn’t be parents. I mean no offense (kindly refer to line 13, where I couldn’t decide between a pet or a child… proof that I myself should not be a parent).

Forcing individuals to become parents before they are ready, is the single worst thing that can be done. That innocent “life” you felt the need to protect, is now doomed, from the start. It is irresponsible (and cruel) to bring children into unstable households, and will cause more harm than anything else.

Alongside increased medical corruption…

Criminalizing abortion also means: More children ending up in unstable situations; more teenagers ending up in damaging cycles; more adults ending up in jail. How is this at all considered righteous? How can anyone proclaim this to be the moral thing to do? There’s nothing honorable about bringing a child into a situation where they don’t have everything they need to survive, much less thrive. Life is already difficult as it is, without any guarantees. Therefore, it’s shameful to knowingly, bring an unknowing child into a messy existence that would be an uphill battle from the start—that’s not what being a parent is about.


It may be a woman’s choice, but the person who is ultimately most affected is the child. So, when chanting, “my body, my choice,” remember who else that choice truly affects. Having children necessitates a kind of selflessness that very few people, in fact, have. If one can’t comprehend this side of the discussion, perhaps one should not be a parent. Period. It’s selfish and we can do better, World.

Call, write, visit your local representatives and tell them how you feel. Remember, they are here for us; without us, they would not be here.

Also, to provide some perspective:

One Georgia State House Representative, Republican Chuck Martin of Alpharetta, who is actually against abortion and usually votes pro-life, actually voted against HB 481, believing it would “criminalize the practice of medicine,” according the Atlanta Journal Constitution.  As a woman from Georgia, I see the heroism here, kudos and thank you to state Rep. Chuck Martin of District 49, for being objective enough to put aside his personal beliefs for the greater good.

The balance in irony:

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, there were four Georgia State members who were absent, and excused, from voting. One Republican State Senator, and three Democrat State Senators. All women, with the exception of one. All Democrat, with the exception of one. I found this to be intriguing, but this one is open for interpretation.

Dueling Mantras

Dueling Mantras

by Marco M. Pardi

The first key to wisdom is this – constant and frequent questioning…for by doubting we are led to question and by questioning we arrive at the truth.” Peter Abelard, Sic et non.

The scientist is not a person who gives the right answers, he’s the one who asks the right questions.” Claude Levi-Strauss, Le Cru et le cuit.

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. All previous posts are open for comment.

In the last few years, and right up to the moments you are reading this Americans have undergone a blizzard of stressors. Some of us, going back further than others, recall periods overshadowed by one or only a few worrisome developments or seeming possibilities. With air raid sirens wailing outside we “ducked and covered” beneath our school desks until one day we started feeling, “Oh, it’s only a drill.” The stressor changed from a falling bomb to a descending ruler wielded by a nun intent on saving us from our foolishness. So, duck and cover indeed.

Then we were horrified to learn that communists and homosexuals had infiltrated our institutions, from beloved movie studios to the hallowed halls of Congress and beyond. Okay, the hollowed halls of Congress. What might these “godless commie-homos” do, we wondered, dress us all alike and bugger us? But we were assured our magic presidential campaign lapel buttons would save us. The Eisenhower campaign ran on ubiquitous I Like Ike buttons, which for some were probably more a linguistic convenience than a declaration of ideology. I Like Ike rolls off the tongue more easily than I Like Katzenjammer or whoever else might try for a turn in the barrel.

Ardently seeking his turn, Barry Goldwater, Republican Senator from Arizona and strong advocate of nuclear force against North Vietnam and anyone else, lost his 1964 Presidential bid largely from the Democratic television ad showing a three year old girl picking petals from a daisy while a mushroom cloud erupted in the background. The ad ran only once but was burned completely into the American psyche. Interestingly, it could be said to foreshadow Cheech & Chong’s somewhat later mega-hit film, Up in Smoke.

Speaking of partnerships, the 20th century Don Quijote y Sancho Panza burst onto the scene incarnated as Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert. Timothy Leary, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at Harvard, gave us the mantra, “Turn on, Tune in, Drop out”. His associate, Richard Alpert, Ph.D. , also Professor of Psychology at Harvard, gave us the mantra, “Be Here Now”. Dr. Alpert, an avid student of Hindu mysticism, went to India and adopted the name Baba Ram Das, meaning Servant of Ram. Both of them lost their positions at Harvard after conducting LSD experiments with graduate students. But the “drop acid – free love” era exploded, following unknowingly on the heels of joint CIA and Army experiments with aerosolizing LSD as a battlefield “love gas” to render enemy combatants blissful. Among the “morning after” effects of the free love movement was the emergence of a highly contagious STD for which there is still no cure: Herpes II. Thought by many to have been named after an obscure Egyptian Pharaoh, it remains with us to this day (and night). A caution against unprotected sex with mummies.

Currently we are living in what reminds me of winter blizzards so severe we called them “white outs”; a person approaching within a few feet of you appeared to materialize out of nowhere, floating in a field of white with no borders in any direction. In such a situation how are we to orient ourselves? Wishing to follow Leary and drop out, where do we drop out from, and to where? Or choosing Alpert’s advice to be here now, where’s here? During our Mountain SERE course the instructors took us to an open meadow. They strongly cautioned us that should we parachute into a heavy snowstorm we should not try to walk out. To demonstrate, they blindfolded six volunteers and told them to walk across the meadow. In only a few yards each of them broke into a circle, tramping paths on which the instructors said they would likely die.

The flurries swirling about us have names: rising prices, inflation, value reduction of investments, shortages of essentials, daily mass shootings, new and emerging virus variants, continuing exposure of corrupt politicians, warfare in Europe, growing military threats in the East, widening wildfires, rapidly worsening weather threats, wildlife extinctions, entire regions in drought, human migration swamping borders around the world, and a few other pesky issues.

Apparently many Americans are continuing the time honored practice of disengagement. During the Presidential election of 2016 several people with whom I spoke said they could not vote for Clinton. Asked why, they could only say “I don’t like her, and Trump can’t possibly win anyway.” Several voted on other candidates but left the Presidential vote blank. We got.

A recent poll, cited above, suggests the degree to which Americans are involving themselves in the political framework upon which so many of the snowflakes mentioned above find something to which to cling. But before the armchair social scientists moan in rhetorical distress over sampling, question construction, and interviewer credentials I will offer that other indicators lend support to the conclusion that the voter base is disengaged or at least distracted. One chronic and undeniable indicator is the fact that, among world democracies the United States consistently has among the lowest turn-out of eligible voters. And taking advantage of that is one particular political party which is pouring fantastic sums of money and effort into every State’s elections at every level.

The outcome of this effort would be far larger than simply placing an incompetent rabble-rouser and his grifter entourage in the White House. Forming a majority consortium of dominated States this party could legally call for a Constitutional Convention to vacate the United States Constitution and replace it with one of their own making. As of this writing, 108 Republican candidates who adhere to Trump’s lies about election fraud have won primary elections for State and Federal positions.

The take-away from the survey noted above seems to be that, while the hearings are providing further detail, voters have made up their minds and are watching – or not – only to confirm their conclusions.

Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, and professor at Brandeis University’s Heller School, is the author of The Stakes: 2020 and the Survival of American Democracy and Going Big. He writes for the Prospect, HuffPost, The Boston Globe, and The New York Review of Books. In Going Big, he makes the case that the stakes are now much larger now. Referring to the choice between a Roosevelt like New Deal versus the return of the open Fascism of 1920’s and 1930’s America, he states: “Joe Biden’s presidency will be either a historic pivot back to New Deal economics and forward to energized democracy, or heartbreaking interregnum between two bouts of deepening American fascism.” Pointedly, the last chapter of the book is titled “America’s Last Chance.”

Wittgenstein said, “How hard I find it to see what is right in front of my eyes.” Apparently so.Which mantra appeals to you, Turn on, tune in, drop out or Be Here Now? Mental health demands a balance. But survival of the United States as a Democratic society may need for us to, at least temporarily, tip the scales.



by Marco M. Pardi

Just Because You’re Paranoid, Doesn’t Mean They’re Not Out to Get You –“ Clare Birchall.

He suffers more than is necessary, who suffers before it is necessary.” Seneca the Younger.

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. All previous posts are open for comment.

When, as a child, I first learned the word conspiracy I was thrilled. I wanted one. Of course, the prefix con (here meaning With) would mean having to confide in others, which I did not want to do. So that meant keeping silent. But what better way to have a conspiracy?

As I’ve grown older I’ve learned that many people believe conspiracies are all around them. My reaction has typically been, These people should get out more. See the world instead of just believing things about the world. I’ve even considered writing a parody: Gullible’s Travels.

In recent years the term Conspiracy Theory has taken hold like a canker sore on the lip. Bothersome, and just won’t go away. Seems to announce your inner state before you begin to speak yet saves you from phony displays of kissy-face. Readers know I bridle at the pedestrian use of the term theory. The scientificprogression is: Association; Hypothesis; Theory; Law. I see none of that in current “conspiracy theories”. Madison Avenue’s “50,000 people can’t be wrong” does not make a belief a theory. And, 50,000 people can be wrong, and along with many more can suffer from a form of intellectual pareidolia, seeing patterns in amorphous images or social events, seeing dots before the eyes……and connecting them.

But then, there are some patterns that insist on appearing, some patterns that can neither be proven nor denied . For example, woven through the historical tapestry of the formation of Israel, hidden to the casual eye, is a line of thought tying together precedent, high minded rhetoric, festering problems, promising discoveries, and hidden motives. The rhetoric emanated from a letter written by then British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to Baron Lionel Walter Rothschild, an influential leader in the Anglo-Jewish Community, in 1917. Secretary Balfour expressed support for the establishment of a “Jewish Homeland” for the Jews spread throughout Europe and the United Kingdom. The letter was made public and became known as the Balfour Declaration. Several countries, including the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, and Germany, each with enclaves sometimes known as Jewish “ghettos”, ratified the sentiment therein. However, the conspiracy thread suggests hidden motives on the part of those hoping to increase their gains from promising discoveries.

But first, was there precedent for such a transfer of people? Indeed. As early as 1815 a wealthy bi-racial Quaker named Paul Cuffe began bringing African-American Bostonians to a colony in Sierra Leone. In time, especially after the Emancipation Proclamation, the “Back to Africa” movement, founded by Marcus Garvey, and the American Colonization Society spurred thousands of African-Americans to move to Sierra Leone and to Liberia, where they established Freetown. A central theme was the idea that African-Americans could never have true civil rights and equality in the United States and therefore needed to move to Africa. Seemed reasonable. Of course, by the latter half of the 19th century another theme lurked in the background: The belief that Lincoln did not free the slaves out of the goodness of his heart but rather because a group of his advisers convinced him that doing so would achieve at least a couple of purposes: Crippling the growing strength of the South which had developed strong trade with Britain and Europe; and forcing the movement of a low cost labor force to the North to bolster the North’s strength in the developing Industrial Revolution. Southern plantation owners would be unable to retain the labor force once it transitioned from slave to wage earner. The former slaves would have to move North to accept jobs little better and often more dangerous than what they had before.

So yes, looking at the Back to Africa movement there was precedent for encouraging the widespread Jewish peoples back to a homeland, even if most of them had never been out of the countries in which they were currently residing and had little understanding of the Hebrew language. Speaking of language, the high minded rhetoric was certainly there as well. After all, such an uprooting and move to an unknown required the very best a motivational speaker could offer. Of course, the long standing problems of anti-Semitism were mentioned, but only as problems which then had a solution.

And what about those promising new discoveries? In 1859 Edwin L. Drake struck oil in Titusville, Pennsylvania leading to a rapidly growing industry well under way by the 1870’s. The numerous wells provided oil for the United States with plenty to sell abroad, especially in Europe. But companies in Great Britain wanted to be free of such dependence.

In March of 1908, after years of difficult conditions and failure, geologist George Bernard Reynolds discovered oil in Persia (modern-day Iran). A year later, an oil company in the UK, Burmah Oil, created a subsidiary company to develop oil production in Persia, the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC), which started volume production of oil by 1913. Britain’s Royal Navy was under the leadership of Winston Churchill, who wanted to shift its fuel source from coal to oil. The Navy thus became the company’s major customer and a de facto hidden power behind its success. And, the conclusion of WWI brought with it the end of the Ottoman Empire throughout what is now a conglomeration of artificially created States known as the Middle East.

Enter the conspiracy theory. The theme, which is still current, was that the major oil companies, which were quickly becoming transnationals, conspired together to insert a dependable irritant, the Jewish State of Israel, into a predominantly Muslim oil rich region. Conflict was bound to occur, giving plausible cause for raising oil prices. And, if it did not occur often enough to satisfy greed for profit, it could be easily sparked.

Israel is usually depicted as the victim of terrorism and that is certainly accurate. But the narrative in the West just as often omits the history of Israeli terrorism. Among the most notorious acts of Jewish terrorism in pre-state Israel was the bombing in 1946 of the King David Hotelin Jerusalem, where British authorities then ruling the area had their headquarters. Dozens were killed and over 100 injured in the attack, which was carried out by the Irgun, a paramilitary group that split from the larger Haganah. In 1948, in the weeks leading up to Israel’s establishment and the outbreak of the War of Independence, the Irgun participated in the infamous Deir Yassin massacre, in which over 100 Palestinians were killed in an Arab village near Jerusalem. The Lehi (sometimes known as the Stern Gang), which also participated in the Deir Yassin killings, was responsible for a number of attacks in the 1940s that killed civilians as well as British soldiers.

In the interim between the wars and major conflicts of the past few decades we repeatedly see Israel violating Cease Fire terms by evicting Palestinian families from homes they have owned for centuries, burning their olive groves, bulldozing homes to make new Jewish armed settler enclaves, and imposing blockades against humanitarian aid. The most recent expulsion is being directed against the villagers of Masafer Yatta. Oil profits reach record highs; American politicians deflect attention elsewhere.

While gathering my thoughts on these and related issues I was, as usual, in contact with a former very highly placed adviser to senior officials in the U.S. government. I received permission to include a couple of snippets from those email exchanges so long as I concealed his identity and current location. His comments are in italics, mine in block print.

From my time on Capitol Hill I learned something about Democrats that shocked me more than anything. Republicans never shocked me but the democrats tormented my moral compass. They can be just as ratty—if not rattier— because it’s sneaky. And that’s what makes a rat, a rat. At least, giving credit where it’s due, the republicans feel so strongly in their ridiculous convictions that they are pompous enough to say it, giving us, the masses, the chance to fight it. The Democrats do not. They preach of human rights, but Obama was personally giving the IDF* (one time on his own birthday, August 4th, I think a sum of 8 million if I’m not mistaken) American civilian tax dollars for their “protection” against Palestinians.

All this to say, in politics, it’s never as it seems. And I think our number one issue as a society is that we have allowed our government to pull the wool over our eyes with a false sense of us versus them. It’s not. It’s us versus us. We lose sight of what matters, to jab each other for being republican or democrat, while they are both taking this ship down. And fast. To add insult to injury, a lot of them are actually good friends behind the scenes and they play us for fools in front of the camera.

Warm regards,

I’m so very glad you wrote that. I have suspected it for a long time. I’ve never been a member of any political party; I consider that like fraternities and sororities-childish. Marco 

And you hit the nail on the head with the childishness of it equating with sororities and fraternities. I always say that Capitol Hill around lunchtime is like walking into a university cafeteria. You should have seen the day Netanyahu came to town. AIPAC members had brought their entire families from all over the US. I was genuinely afraid to say I was (national origin redacted), because the conversations around me were so uncivil. And these were Americans! 

As Americans, I felt they were far too privileged to be that angry. It was appalling, the level of violence they did not know, but very vocally thirsted after. Terrifying. Warm regards,

* IDF is Israeli Defense Forces.

It seems the bottom line here is that, as the adviser says, nothing is as it seems. And that goes for official pronouncements as well as for lunatic conspiracy theories like the QAnon craziness such as Democrats are pedophiles. But are all conspiracy theories lunacy? The presidential election of 2016 has clearly been shown to have been strongly influenced by Russian disinformation on a massive scale. Whether members of one particular American political Party took part, and the extent to which they may have taken part is an open question. But the activities subsequent to that Party’s loss in 2020, including the attempted overthrow of the United States government are textbook examples of a well orchestrated, though fortunately unsuccessful conspiracy.

In the coming days we will see the massive and comprehensive evidence gathered by the January 6th Committee, including the transcripts of texts and emails exchanged by officials at the very highest levels of the then presidential administration. And they did not act alone. While the efforts of these officials may be judged as the actions of lunatics, the consequences for the people of the United States could not have been more serious. Having failed at their initial attempt to overthrow the federal government, the conspirators are busy at the State level to assemble a consortium empowered to repeal the Constitution of the United States.

As the trite saying goes, “If it walks like a duck……..”

No non-humans were harmed in the making of this post.

Time Is Unrelenting

Time Is Unrelenting

by Br. Mark Dohle

An ever timely post by Mark Dohle, a Cistercian (Trappist) monk who, contrary to common opinion about monks, does not have a lot of time on his hands —– unless you factor in eternity.

Please feel free to take the time to comment. There will be time to send you a reply. MMP

Time is Unrelenting

You know very well that everything that is of time is short-lived. So stretch out your arms to eternity. Long for eternity. This puts you on a higher plane, your heart forging ahead to this unknown, undreamed-of country. This is the way to get a close-up aim at the goal.

Bossis, Gabrielle. He and I (Kindle Locations 3645-3647).
Pauline Books and Media. Kindle Edition.


Thinking about eternity is not escapism, but can be a big help in trying to see what is really important in our lives.  What is worth the effort?  Aging brings us to a time in our lives when we have to face that question.  Each day as it rapidly passes by, shows us the ultimate futility of hoping in anything that is passing.  Yet we can still cling.  Still working on that.

Greed, asks of us that we use all of our energy to ‘get’, ‘own’, and ‘dominate’ the world around us.  Even if everything slips through our fingers, greed can still spur us onward.  Greed in all of its manifestations is shortsighted and does not think about consequences.  The destruction of the environment for financial gain is probably one of the most obvious.  We are not here to devour, but to seek to grow in love.  It is our nature to be loving beings, but the love of something less than what we are called to is destructive for both body, and soul. 

This life is important, perhaps more important than often realized.  Choices matter, how we treat ourselves and others, is probably much more important than we realize.  Once we can actually understand how swiftly our lives progress, it is then that maybe we learn.  Another thing I am still working on.

Old age is a very interesting time of life.  Like every season of our lives, old age has its challenges.  Letting go is perhaps one of the most difficult.  Each day can bring its lesson in this regard.  I can’t run anymore for instances.  It would be tragic, and funny to see me trying to do that.  I can walk fast, but running? My knees, lower back, and lungs would let me know soon enough how foolish that is.  Balance is not what it used to be.  Nothing works the way it used to.  Yet, I am happy to be aging. 

Why is everything so short-lived?  I find it funny that people get excited about being immortal, yet we can barely deal with the years we have.  In any case, no matter how long we live, in the end, it will speed by.

The eternal aspect of ourselves, our mind, that which is actually only seen and known by God, can wake up when the ‘things’ of our youth are taken from us, one, by one.  A call to patient endurance for sure.  In the time of our ‘old-age’, we can learn to seek a deeper joy, one that is based on a trusting understanding that we are pilgrims on an often difficult journey, yet we are never alone.

Faith in God does not make life easier, but it does fill it with meaning.  We are creatures that seek meaning in our lives.  Our libraries, and bookstores, are filled with the thoughts, and insights, of deep thinkers who try to lead us into living more meaningful lives.  Some of these books are much better than others. 

If our essential nature and our deepest desires are based on finding love, perhaps when Jesus commanded us to ‘Love God with our whole being’ and to ‘love our neighbors as ourselves’ makes perfect sense.  Anything less than that will only lead us to deeper frustration.  What is loved can’t be bought, owned, or hoarded, it can only be shared.  God is the biggest sharer.

The problem is that our ideas of God are often so infantile that it only leads to deeper self-absorption.  It takes a lifetime for the Lord to reach most of us, and it seems to be part of our lives, this slow taking away from us what we believe is essential until there is nothing left but for us to surrender.  Now that is something I am really working on.-Br.MD

Gun Control (Again)

Gun Control

by Marco M. Pardi

In response to the recent spate of mass shootings I am re-posting this piece I originally posted in 2018. Your comments would be greatly appreciated. Furthermore, I plead with you to forward this to as many people as you can. I am entirely willing to engage in discussion with anyone interested in having an intelligent conversation.


I have been a gun owner since age 15. As a highly trained professional I carried various firearms for years. Beyond and in addition to my military experience I will not disclose the nature of additional or other employment or circumstances which required weapons carry and use. I currently have, and regularly use a Concealed Carry license.


Some people like to say gun control is using both hands. Cute. But on a serious note, I am a strong advocate of gun control, as I will spell out below. I am also serious about getting guns out of the wrong hands. When I read or see television coverage of, say, two drug dealers shooting each other to death in a deal gone bad my reaction is: Two down, more to go. When I read of an armed robber shot dead by an armed citizen in a convenience store, or a home invader shot dead by the home owner it’s, Hooray for our side. And when a trophy hunter gets stomped by an elephant or munched by a lion or bear, it’s three cheers for the home team. You get the idea.

But I am also appalled by the very obvious poor training “sworn professionals” receive. The media are filled with examples of police officers using their firearms inappropriately, usually with fatal consequences. Less obvious are the risks one runs in going to a neighborhood shooting range. I’ve seen too many examples of inadequate or absent firearms safety and oversight, including among police officers. One can only wonder at the general civilian population and their capacity to safely handle firearms.

Having said all that, the United States have a problem with firearms. One sector of the population holds up the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as if the hand of God wrote it. Never mind that the Republican owned Supreme Court chose to overlook the part about “a well regulated militia”. Another sector, quite likely the majority, wants much more control over guns. In fact, recent polling by CNN indicates 90% of the public want common sense gun control measures put in place, yet Republican senators, paid for by the gun lobby and manufacturers, refuse to take any action regardless of the number of children shot to pieces as just happened.

But control over guns is not the only answer, or even the best answer. There are already literally millions of guns in private hands. Imposing controls on the further distribution of guns, especially certain types such as “military style assault weapons” is a visible and partially effective measure. The production and sale of “assault weapons” should be banned. These are fantasy weapons, for adult children who want to play soldier; none of them are approved for military issue and use and only an idiot would keep one for “home defense” or hunting. But, I have some additional suggestions:

  1. Just as we license drivers, we must license all gun owners. The purchase of any firearm, of any kind, would require a license. This would be dependent upon successful completion of a thorough background check and a firearms safety course, paid for by the prospective gun owner. This license must be renewed every five years, all costs borne by the owner.
  2. So how do we enforce this? Enact federal law that no ammunition, of any kind or caliber, can be sold without the licensed seller verifying that the purchaser has a valid and current license. A firearm without ammunition is just an expensive paper weight.
  3. Extend these laws to private sales. Gunshows are highly valued by people wanting to get around background checks. One can go into a gun show, approach a dealer or a private individual who has rented a booth, and “step outside the show” for an unregistered purchase of a gun seen inside the show. So, specify that violation of the federal law banning the sale of a firearm or ammunition to an unlicensed individual carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.
    1. There is a significant home industry in re-loadingammunition. Subject the sale of equipment and supplies, such as bullets, primers, and propellants to the same licensing requirement spelled out above.
    2. There is a growing interest in and ability to fabricate firearms from synthetic materials by using 3-D printers. Declare the manufacture, possession, or sale of these firearms to be illegal under federal law and carrying a mandatory prison sentence.

Many readers will say these measures do not address the problem of so many guns and so much ammunition already out there. That is largely true. But it is completely true that going apartment to apartment and house to house to register or confiscate these materials is out of the question. Would you like to do it? I bet not. Instead, we are faced with the classic Pig in the Python, the pig being the ammunition and the python being the guns. As the existing ammunition is used the pig moves through the python coming out the other end as useless shell casings. When people use all their ammunition and find they cannot acquire more without a thorough background check and license the frequency of use will decline. Eventually, if the laws are enforced, the problem will solve itself. Some people may dislike that word “eventually”. Welcome to the real world.

For now, the “real” world of America is the unreal world generated by Hollywood and fiction books. It is the armed frontiersman, the itinerant armed cowboy on the ever present horse, the homesteaders who are crack shots. Of course, none of these ever seems to run out of ammunition. The 2nd Amendment was written during the times of flintlock muskets. It had a very specific political goal in mind, and it had specific conditions attached. Contrast that with National Rifle Association practices which enroll children as young as six and place little or no limits on the types of available firearms.

Some people will say my suggestions are Draconian and will hurt the responsible gun owners. Let me personally assure you of something: Getting shot hurts a lot worse.

I’ve kept this entry short because I do not want to turn away the reader with arcane discussions about weapons technology or Byzantine legal systems. I also hope that, since it is short but to the point, readers will take the initiative to respond. Please also heed my request and forward this to as many people as you can.

The Great Divide:

The Great Divide: South Africa after Apartheid”

Taking a closer look at the remnants and ramifications of race and segregation in South Africa– and how it compares to the United States, today.

By Tamila Kianfard

Arriving in Cape Town International Airport, after a thirty-seven hour voyage was something I couldn’t have prepared for. Aside from my swollen feet, being over-exhausted, jet-lagged, desperate for a nap, and being in dire need of a hot shower—I was in a foreign place. I stood out where most residents mainly fit into one of the three tick boxes: black, white, or coloured? Yep, as a Southern American—that one caught me completely off guard, and with our history, sent me straight down memory lane and all the way to 5th grade Black History Month—the only time that specific jargon is relevant, but berated.

Then I encountered my first South African in South Africa. Granted it was the lady at the visa checkpoint asking me why I was even in South Africa, and while we didn’t go into song-and-dance about my visiting her home country—I was absolutely floored by her especially unique look, and naturally had to inquire about her ethnic background. Probably not the wisest move in this day and age, but when I say this woman was “uniquely” stunning, I’m not exaggerating. She was so incredibly different from anything I had ever seen. Her eyes were piercing blue with green hues, and her skin was the shade of brown that girls, literally, burn for. Let’s not even begin to try to describe the perfection that was her hair color. For kicks, we’ll attempt to simply call it ‘golden.’ The only way I knew to describe her unique look is that her features were closest to that of someone whom I would recognize, and would probably widely be considered in my hometown in the States, as “mixed” race.

(Sheepishly, I learned the term “mixed” is not only inappropriate, but also highly offensive to describe “coloured” people in South Africa.) It was put so sweetly to kindly educate this one foreigner, “You mix a cake, and colour the world.” I appreciated the profound quip this older, wiser, South African ‘Mama’ was offering me, and I took it.

Ironically, the populous of South Africa mostly fall under “Black,” and what most Americans view as derogatory: Coloured.

It took me some time to be able to adopt this new vocabulary as a rule, but I quickly realized that while the vocabulary may have been difficult to adjust to, the division between the color classes was even more frightening. To understand how and why these color distinctions are so prominent in the social interactions, and overall dynamic, of South African culture—presented the real challenge.

I lived in an area where the divide was so mindboggling, that to be able to grasp an idea of just how much of a gap was present, one had to turn to the dehumanizing fact that the elite’s pets had more proof of existence than the children living in townships. In certain places, like Hout Bay, people who put their dogs in doggy daycare, had “Repawt” cards, and other daily check-ins, while many adults and children in townships didn’t have birth certificates, and many of them are still unaccounted for.

The plot thickened, as I couldn’t help the sad realization that washed over me while I sat there, on my American pedestal—this country was reflecting my own in many ways. In shocking disbelief, I realized the parallels between South Africa and the American South, are way too close for comfort. I wondered how something of the past so prominently haunted and dictated the future. How could the Rainbow nation with such a colorful background, fighting segregation, apartheid, with Madiba—still be so divided? The worst part: The Mother City was a mirroring parallel to the place I dearly call home—Atlanta, Georgia.

What was even more daunting was the fact that, the country I call home is one of the most powerfully lucrative in the world, and yet, evidently not powerful enough to fight racism or poverty. At that moment, I couldn’t help but to think how many thousands of times, over, both, Nelson Mandela and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., had tossed in their eternal beds. I am still shaken by the thought, and this revelation.

As less than a handful of Americans in Cape Town at the time, I was, shockingly, one of the few Americans who recognized this disturbing connection. As if I wasn’t traumatized enough, and now to add my own ethno-Southern roots– most of the other Americans were from more liberal areas of the United States, which, I noticed, strangely enough, actually seemed impartial to what was going on. Not to say that they didn’t care, or that liberals, democrats should care more, but they do tend to vocalize it more—so where was that initiation? Why was it absent in a place it was needed most? Why are there as many people starving in the world today, as there are people who claim to care about them?

Have we desensitized even some of the most sensitive in the world? This is not to imply blame, but more to admit confusion on what direction we have gone in the world. What is our direction? Have human lives become so worthless that we can sit back and watch while our fellow humans starve in the cycle in which they were born, chained to the shackles of the situations they can’t get out of because there is no way out provided?

Working and volunteering in the legal systems, human rights commissions, and battered women and children’s shelters in Cape Town, one thing was absolutely apparent to me:

That many people are not failing the system; the system is failing them. That many people are not flawed; the system is flawed.

The 16 year old–going to jail, tainting his future with a past, because he can’t afford the cheese and bread he shoplifted, desperately, to feed himself and his family, and now must pay a legal fine that is triple the amount of money he couldn’t afford to begin with– is not to blame. The woman who stands up to her abusive, alcoholic husband, and gets beaten in front her children, the woman who can’t get a job, to get out of the horrible situation, because she looks “too rough”– is not to blame. The children who are brought up in that environment, picking up only what they know, what they see, and what they are shown, and reflect it—are not to blame. These are those cycles that one must honestly ask oneself, “What would I do in that situation?”

What is an even more grim reality is the fact that the physical divide between people, is more based on race than proximity. In layman’s terms: the proof is in the pudding—a black man from the American South, eerily, understands to some varying degree, the hardships of a black man in South Africa, without ever setting foot in the other’s country. This is not coincidence. It is systemic.

We must do better. We must learn to walk a mile in the other’s shoes, towards each other, in hopes of meeting halfway, to find a balance that would remedy the casual indifference we live in today. Not just for South Africa, not just for the United States, but also for the entire world, and future generations.

Let’s “colour“ the world, properly—staying within the lines—of dignity and respect.

This article is dedicated to all the incredible individuals I had the pleasure of meeting in Kaapstad. You have touched my heart, forever. Dankie, Dankie, Dankie.

Tamila Kianfard is a human rights advocate, focusing on empowering women’s rights everywhere Tamila Kianfard she goes—from Women’s Freedom Forum in Washington DC to St. Anne’s Women’s Shelter in South Africa. She has a BA in International Affairs from Kennesaw State University, with a concentration on diplomacy and development, specifically in the Middle East and Africa.

In her spare time, she’s pretty much a mermaid (yes, really) with a deep love for protecting our oceans and Recycling—she [shamelessly] urges everyone she meets to do the same.

To Be Or Not To Be

To Be Or Not To Be

by Marco M. Pardi

A woman’s right to choose an abortion is something central to a woman’s life, to her dignity….And when government controls that decision for her, she’s being treated as less than a full adult human being responsible for her own choices.” Ruth Bader Ginsberg

The cemetery of the victims of human cruelty in our century is extended to include yet another vast cemetery, that of the unborn.” Pope John Paul II


Abort – To stop in the developmental stages.

Spontaneous abortion – (medical term). Commonly called Miscarriage. Occurs through various circumstances, not necessarily resulting from intentional human agency.

Induced abortion – an act of human agency.

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. All previous posts are open for comment.

Once again the United States is in the throes of debate over induced abortion. This time appears to be more inclusive and more likely to include societal violence. It is more inclusive as it appears to be a more pronounced conflict of political ideologies conflated with religious views and scientific realizations not known in the debates of fifty years ago. And, once again, the legally binding decision For or Against the validity of the long established Roe V. Wade Supreme Court decision is in the hands of a few Supreme Court Justices, now numerically superior on the side of the ultra right wing group that rushed through their confirmation.

Fifty years ago, as a young college Anthropology instructor, I was asked to take part in a public debate on the Roe v. Wade case then being decided. I did so. Of course, I found an irony in the case: I was unfamiliar with the term roe as a human’s name; I had always thought of it as the eggs of a fish especially when still enclosed in the ovarian membrane. (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary). Although I saw certain parallels I realized no one else seemed to so I didn’t mention that. Nonetheless, I based my presentation on logic, as would anyone arguing a legal case. I will do so again here, with the proviso that logic properly done does not have a predetermined outcome. I will also say I will not attempt to present a full and comprehensive legal case for either side (You’re welcome).

Debates on topics such as this commonly circle around some entanglement of logic and emotion, often foundering on the latter as the former is less inflammatory and thereby loses strength. Thus, the outcome is often a hardening of pre-existent feelings more than a bridge to cognitive understanding.

Mindful of that, we should remember that the determinant legal issue of reproductive freedom is being debated in court, not just in private salons or other meeting places. Thus, as in any court case, assertions must be based upon and supported by evidence. Appeals to beliefs and feelings will be ruled inadmissible, even inflammatory. Nonetheless, we should at least look at those appeals as they are often introduced with the knowledge that even when ruled out they have found their way into a juror’s mind. We may begin by portraying a court interaction as A for assertion and R for rebuttal.

A: Life is a God given gift and must be protected and preserved.

R: The assertion claims as self-evident that there is a God and that this God gives gifts. According to honest theologians this is a compound conjecture; an If connected to a Maybe, and is inadmissible. There is no evidence for either.

A: Human life begins at: conception; or presence of a heartbeat; or detection of movement (“quickening in the womb”), and stopping the development is the taking of a human life.

R: The markers cited in the premise are arbitrary and apparently based on theological interpretation. The subordinate clause in the assertion is dependent upon the validity of the premise. Medical science stipulates to the potential for development of human life at those markers, not the factual actuality of its presence. The premise presupposes a developmental outcome and is therefore conjecture.

The reader is free to propose other such assertions, however it possibly now seems clear such assertions, based in theology, have no legal footing. It should be noted that at no time are the assertions cited above declared materially wrong; they are disqualified because there is zero supporting evidence and are based on faith. They may in fact be true, but the United States is a secular society, not a theocracy, and faith – belief in an assertion for which there is no evidence, has no standing.

Moving to the legal framework for debate:

A: Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, a “strict Constitutionalist”, asserted that there is no mention of abortion in the Constitution. The implication is that since abortion is not a federal issue it should be decided by States, and Roe V. Wade was improperly heard and decided.

R: Justice Alito conveniently ignored the fact that, to date, there have been 27 Amendments to the Constitution addressing issues not specified in the original Constitution.

A: The issue before the Supreme Court solely concerns the question of what legal venue is entitled to legislate and adjudicate issues of abortion.

R: False. As will be explained in Discussion, the implications flowing from the patchwork of State courts and legislatures include and affect far more than just abortion.


The efforts to remove the freedom of women to control their own bodies including reproductive functions and outcomes are by no means universally held among the dominant religions in the United States. Nearly twice as many evangelical Protestants (63%) oppose legal abortion compared to mainline Protestants (33%), according to the most recent survey of abortion views by faith performed by Pew Research Center. Three-quarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses and nearly as many Mormons (70%) say abortion should be illegal. In contrast, 83% of American Jews and 55% of American Muslims say abortion should be legal.

American Catholics are largely split, with 56% supportive of legal abortion and 42% opposed, a 2019 Pew Research Center survey found.

As of this writing there are 26 of 50 States which have either passed prohibitive “trigger” laws, designed to go into effect should the Supreme Court strike down Roe V. Wade, or are currently developing such laws. In several cases the laws are such that, before a woman even knows she is pregnant she is subject to a heavy monetary fine and lengthy prison sentence if convicted of taking an action which terminated her pregnancy even if resulting from rape or incest. In addition, personnel ranging from her doctor to her driver, should she obtain transportation to a health clinic for purposes of abortion, also face heavy fines and lengthy imprisonment. The same applies to her if she obtains a medically prescribed pill, even by mail, which might terminate her pregnancy. The root of these laws is the pronouncement that the fertilized egg; or the small collection of cells emitting a nerve action (called “heartbeat”); or the fetus long before viability outside the womb is “a person”. In short, Where does life begin? Yet, medical science is far from agreed on any answer to that. Certainly the potential for life, under the right circumstances, is there, but the actuality is debatable. The same (potential) could be said of the gametes carried by either sex. If prevented from uniting under the “right circumstances” they are expelled and die, through menstruation, nocturnal emission, or other means. Are these processes then homicide? Surgeons operating to remove cancerous tumors strive to achieve “clean margins”, meaning removal of neighboring healthy cells. But we have long had the ability to clone individuals from such healthy cells, though ethical considerations have stopped – for now – cloning of humans. Should these surgeons be convicted of murder?

Several States are also considering the banning of certain forms of contraception. Some forms, such as barrier methods, prevent conception. And, yes, some allow conception but prevent implantation of the fertilized egg. What appears overlooked is that some of the latter forms of contraception are prescribed for serious medical conditions unrelated to prevention of pregnancy. Banning those forms would effectively doom females afflicted with those conditions to serious and perhaps fatal consequences.

The Declaration of Independence strongly declares the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But whose life? A fertilized cell? A collection of cells? Or a female capable of child bearing, albeit if she herself is a child? Unwanted pregnancy can and often does produce a cascade effect including but not limited to fear, shame, depression, shunning by family and friends, failure to complete school, loss of or inability to obtain gainful employment (a recently completed study by a consortium of economists found that pregnancy reduces a woman’s income potential by 30% while increasing her costs dramatically), a child or children raised in dramatically sub-optimal familial, social, medical, and educational conditions, and greatly reduced lifelong potential for the child. “Life”? Check. “Liberty”? Liberty was taken from the mother and therefore from the child. “Pursuit of happiness”? You’re kidding, right?

A corollary phenomenon overlooked by so many “Pro Life” people (actually, Pro Birth) is the almost complete overlap they share with those strongly advocating for reduction of “welfare” such as the WIC (Women, Infants & Children) program, free school meals, housing assistance, Medicaid and other programs addressing the poverty caused largely by inadequate opportunities for family planning.

I have written elsewhere of what I see as reasoning behind the “big money”, especially as funneled through the titular Republican Party to support the denial of freedom and the subjugation of women. A desperate labor pool will accept low wages, third world working conditions, no retirement funds, and job termination due to outsourcing or automation. A desperate labor pool will gladly volunteer for the “three hots and a cot” life in a military which can be summoned at any moment for wars of profit they will never share in. Not shareholders in the “defense industries”, they will reap only a meager separation pay, or retirement pay, and maybe a chance to get on the waiting list for Veterans Administration health care.

Regular readers of this site know I have often applied a name to this “reasoning”. But go ahead, apply one of your own. And while you are devising that name I would ask you to ask yourself if you want To Be that or do you choose Not To Be that.

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